The Realm of Invented Languages

Course information


The Realm of Invented Languages


Krisztina, Andrási

Course code








Course description

Short description

This course offers an insight into the construction as well as the linguistic study of languages. Students will explore the history of and the different motives for language creation. They will examine the properties and structure of various invented languages, continuously comparing them to natural languages. Through the study of invented languages, students can gain a deeper knowledge of what is possible and what is impossible in natural language structure. They will investigate how (natural) languages work and how languages can be designed for different purposes. They will acquire the fundamentals of the scientific study of language, focusing on phonetics and phonology, morphology, syntax and semantics. Language change over time, dialectal variation, and different writing systems will also be discussed. Languages analysed in class include, for example, Esperanto, Klingon, Dothraki, Valyrian, and Sindarin.



1. Introduction, orientation

2. The history of language creation

3. Typology of constructed languages

4. Phonetics (Dothraki)

5. Phonology (Esperanto and Klingon)

6. Morphology: Nouns (Irathient)

7. Morphology: Verbs (Sindarin)

8. Syntax (Sindarin)

9. Semantics (Xurnese, philosophical languages)

10. Pragmatics (Xurnese)

11. Language change (High Valyrian, Sindarin)

12. Dialectal variation (Valyrian)

13. Orthography (the Casthitan writing system)

14. Closing discussion




Requirements to get the grade

Grading is based on: classroom participation (10%), individual assignments (20%), an in-class presentation (30%), and a term paper (related to the topic of the course) or a final project write-up (a descriptive grammar of a conlang of the student’s design) (40%)

Grading policy: 100-91%: 5; 90-79%: 4; 78-65%: 3; 64-51%: 2; 50-0%: 1


Students are allowed to miss a maximum of 3 classes.


Reading list

Cheyne, Ria. 2008. “Created Languages in Science Fiction.” Science Fiction Studies 35.3, 386–403.

Okrent, Arika. 2009. In the Land of Invented Languages: Esperanto rock stars, Klingon poets, Loglan lovers, and the mad dreamers who tried to build a perfect language. New York: Spiegel & Grau.

Peterson, David J. 2015. The Art of Language Invention: From Horse-Lords to Dark Elves, the Words Behind World-Building. New York: Penguin Books.

Rosenfelder, Mark. 2010. The Language Construction Kit. Chicago: Yonagu Books.


Possible further readings of research articles, reports and book chapters and online sources will be provided by the instructor based on students’ personal interests.

Suggested reading list

Okrand, Marc. 1992. The Klingon Dictionary. Addendum ed. Pocket Books.

Rosenfelder, Mark. 2012. Advanced language construction. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Rosenfelder, Mark. 2013. The conlanger’s lexipedia. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Salo, David. 2004. A Gateway to Sindarin: A Grammar of an Elvish Language from J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. Salt Lake City: The University of UTAH Press.